Weekly Review — November 26, 2013, 8:00 am

Weekly Review

The countries and companies responsible for climate change, nuclear options in Congress and Iran, and the extinction of Darwin’s frog

A kinkajou, 1886.

A kinkajou, 1886.

The World Coal Association hosted a clean-coal summit on the western bank of Warsaw’s Vistula River, and representatives of 132 of the world’s poorest countries staged a walkout at a U.N. climate-change conference held on the river’s eastern bank, claiming that wealthier nations had derailed talks. “It helped clear the air,” a negotiator said of the walkout. “They wore T-shirts and gorged on snacks,” an activist said of the Australian delegation.[1][2][3][4] In Canberra, a Labor minister ate his own hair.[5] A British oceanographer named Grant Bigg was co-awarded a £50,000 grant to track a Chicago-size iceberg that recently detached from Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier, and technicians at the Tongonan geothermal field on Leyte Island, in the Philippines, tested components at the field’s sole remaining cooling tower after Super Typhoon Haiyan.[6][7] Flooding and landslides caused by Cyclone Cleopatra killed 18 people and displaced an estimated 2,700 in Sardinia, where nearly a foot and a half of rain fell in 90 minutes on Monday night. Municipal officials on the island blamed the inadequacy of their response in part on Italy’s Civil Protection Department, which initially warned them of the cyclone by fax. “A water bomb exploded with incredible intensity,” said the mayor of Olbia, the town most directly affected by the storm. “Our vineyards of the sea have been destroyed,” said a group of Olbian mussel growers. “Even the elderly people say they can’t remember something like this happening,” said forest guardsman Antioco Bus.[8][9][10][11][12][13] Climatologists determined that 90 companies are responsible for two thirds of the greenhouse-gas emissions generated since 1854. “The decision makers — the CEOs or the ministers of coal and oil,” said one researcher, “could all fit on a Greyhound bus or two.”[14]

The U.S. Senate voted 52–48 in favor of the so-called nuclear option, a change in procedural rules that enables confirmation of certain executive- and judicial-branch nominees with a simple majority rather than a supermajority. “You’ll regret this,” said Senator Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.). “And you may regret it a lot sooner than you think.”[15] In negotiations with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States, Iran agreed to halt high-grade-uranium enrichment for six months in exchange for the relaxation of international sanctions. “We will begin the program,” said Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, “by the end of the Christian year.”[16] Vatican officials denied that a newly restored fresco in the Cubiculum of the Veiled Woman proves the existence of female priests in early Christianity, and the General Synod of the Church of England voted 378–8 to move forward with the ordination of women. “This is a fairy tale,” Vatican heritage superintendent Fabrizio Bisconti said of the fresco. “That is reality,” the Right Reverend James Langstaff said of the vote.[17][18] Mary Cheney, the daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney, denounced her sister, Liz, a U.S. Senate candidate in Wyoming, for Liz’s opposition to same-sex marriage. “This isn’t like a disagreement over grazing fees,” said Mary Cheney. “Compassion is called for,” said Dick Cheney.[19][20] Two members of the presidential turkey flock were scheduled to meet the governor of Minnesota. “They will not be pardoned,” said the turkeys’ breeder. “They will be processed.”[21] Sirhan Sirhan, the man who shot and killed Senator Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, was transferred from a prison in central California to one in the southern part of the state on Friday, the fiftieth anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. “The date of the move,” said a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, “is simply an unfortunate coincidence.”[22] Sponsored products featured in Google search results were found to be 34 percent more expensive on average than nonsponsored products.[23]

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Darwin’s frog was declared extinct.[24] Evolutionary biologists found that the sap-sucking sea slug Elysia timida does not need sunlight to survive. “It’s very difficult to digest,” a researcher said of the news.[25] Two Canadians saved a Greenland shark from choking on a moose.[26] British archaeologists sampled a pharaonic beef-rib mummy, and NOSH, a program to encourage breast-feeding among low-income mothers, launched in Derbyshire. [27][28] Europe formed a drones club, German teenagers exhibited a new subtype of boredom, and Russian police reported that 18 medical-school students had been expelled for dancing the lezginka.[29][30][31] In the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, a 101-year-old pensioner trained for his segment of the Sochi Winter Olympics torch relay by jogging while holding aloft a frozen humpback salmon. “This guy Ruslan gave me four small dumbbells,” said the man, “but they’re hard to hold.”[32] Ikea omitted an interview with a lesbian couple from the Russian version of its customer-loyalty magazine, citing recently passed legislation banning “gay propaganda.” “We have two guiding principles,” said an Ikea official. “The first is home interior design. The second is following the law.”[33] The Swedish Transit Authority was found to have rejected more than 100 applications for vanity license plates since 2009, including KÖRFORT, ÖKÄND, and SCROTUM, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded $100,000 to the developers of a condom made from reconstituted animal collagen. “I could yank all day,” said an engineer, “and not break this thing.”[34][35][36]


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